Posted by Mike Lynch on January 29, 2024
Most Valuable Player Awards in the National and American Leagues date back to 1911, when the Chalmers Award was voted on by a writer from each league city to reward the player in each league who "should prove himself as the most important and useful player to his club and to the league at large in point of deportment and value of services rendered." The reward for winning was an automobile. The award was created in 1910, but was for winning the batting title and ended in controversy. So from 1911-14 the award went to an MVP from each league. Interest in the award waned, and so from 1915-21 no MVPs were awarded.
In 1922, the American League MVP returned, followed by the return of the NL MVP in 1924. The rules for the AL MVP drew criticism since voters had to vote for one player (and only one player) from each team, player/managers (popular at the time) could not receive votes and no player could win the award more than once. So, for instance, Babe Ruth won the AL MVP in 1923, and then was not eligible to win subsequent awards for a number of years. The NL used a separate set of rules for selecting its MVPs, which were better, but imperfect.
In 1928 Mickey Cochrane was AL MVP in a season in which Ruth and Gehrig were the no-brainer top candidates, but each was ineligible on account of having been previous winners. This robbed the award of some meaning. And so on May 6, 1929 the AL decided to not award an MVP in the 1929 season. The NL would later come to the same conclusion, but decided to award an MVP in 1929, but then not have one in 1930. So the 1929 season has an official NL MVP, but no AL MVP. And the 1930 season has no official MVPs. The leagues have officially awarded MVPs since 1931, leaving these three awards as missing links.
Baseball Reference, like the American and National Leagues, has never printed AL MVPs for 1929 and 1930, or an NL MVP in 1930. However, thanks to the research of SABR member Bill Deane, we are now including information on unofficial MVPs for these league seasons. This was also spurred by a site user pointing out to us that Joe Cronin's 1930 AL MVP is engraved on his plaque in Cooperstown.
These awards were voted on by two separate committees in each instance, with each roughly replicating previous voting rules. In essence, these votes used the same/similar procedures, each using one voter from each league city and then publishing the results in newspapers and announcing the winner. The only difference is the lack of the stamp of officialdom. In 1929, Lew Fonseca was voted unofficial AL MVP by the BBWAA, while Al Simmons was voted the winner by The Sporting News. By combining the results of these two polls, we arrive at Fonseca as the unofficial winner. Full combined voting results can be seen here. It's interesting to note that Fonseca benefitted from the rule preventing a writer from giving a vote to more than one player from any given team, as the Philadelphia A's greats (Jimmie Foxx, Jimmy Dykes, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane, etc.) split the vote. Meanwhile, Babe Ruth, ostensibly the best player in the World in 1929, received votes in the BBWAA poll, but not in the TSN poll.
Cronin swept both of the writers' polls for the 1930 AL Award, despite Al Simmons having more first-place votes. The one vote per team rule hurt Simmons, as some writers put Lefty Grove or Mickey Cochrane on their ballot, while Cronin drew all of the votes for his team. In the National League, Bill Terry was voted MVP by The Sporting News, while Hack Wilson was the winner of the BBWAA poll. Combining the two makes Hack Wilson the unofficial 1930 NL MVP. Frankie Frisch and Terry led in first-place votes with six each. Full voting results for 1930 can be seen here.
While the voting methodology used in 1929 and 1930 had many of the same warts that plagued earlier versions of the awards, ultimately we decided it was merely a technicality that they didn't receive 'official' awards and that the truest version of history would be to present these awards on the site given that they were voted on at that time and in a similar manner as previous awards. So we have updated the site to include these awards for Lew Fonseca, Joe Cronin and Hack Wilson, while also noting that they are "unofficial."